Virginia joined the growing number of states with online sports betting on January 21, 2021 when FanDuel launched their online sportsbook in the Commonwealth.
The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation (SB 384) in March 2020 to allow statewide mobile sports betting, plus a limited number of physical sportsbooks at five yet-to-be-built casinos. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the U.S. and closed state legislatures, Gov. Ralph Northam did not immediately sign the bill but requested amendments. On April 22, 2020, state lawmakers accepted the amendments and sports betting became law. The law went into effect on July 1, 2020.
It may have taken over six months for the first site to launch, but on January 21, 2021, FanDuel made history when they went live, marking the first online sportsbook in Virginia. FanDuel is consistently one of the top online sportsbooks in every US market but they got some competition shortly after when DraftKings, BetRivers, and BetMGM started accepting bets just a few days later.
Legal sportsbooks are now accessible throughout Virginia. On this page we’ll cover everything related to sports betting in Virginia, and identify the best sites to place your wagers.
Top VA online sportsbooks
Virginia sports betting timetable
According to Virginia Lottery Chief Kevin Hall, legal sports betting was slated to go live in Virginia ahead of the 2021 Super Bowl, set for Feb. 7. The Lottery was required to approve rules by Sept. 15, 2020, and shortly after doing so, it opened the application process, which will be annually from Oct. 15-31. Luckily, things fell into place on time, and sports betting went live in late January.
About 25 operators applied for sports betting licenses, though the lottery isn’t releasing the names. There are approximately 12 licenses available, therefore many of those who have applied won’t get licensed.
Prior to the rules being approved, the Lottery rolled out Phase 1 of its proposed rules in July and Phase 2 in early August, and opened the proposed to public comment. There were 183 comments from more than 30 stakeholders, some of which were ultimately added to the rules.
Though Virginia doesn’t have casinos yet, it will after voters in four cities approved new gaming facilities on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot. Those casinos likely won’t open until 2022 or beyond, but each is entitled to one online sports betting skin (partner), and ultimately each could have a retail sportsbook.
The Virginia Lottery Commission is new to sports betting, but the timeline mandated by lawmakers was aggressive and saw the first sportsbook, FanDuel, go live just a little over 6 months later.
The good news?
The new law mandates the Virginia Lottery issue at least four sports betting licenses and up to 12. Those numbers, however, are a little deceiving, as none of the five potential casinos, sports franchises (Washington Football Team), or operators of a facility (DC United – MLS) would count toward the minimum. Sports franchises and operators of a facility do not count toward the maximum number of licenses either.
The Lottery says it will ultimately offer a minimum of 11 mobile platforms and a maximum of 14. Here’s how the breakdown will work: For the minimum of 11, the Lottery is counting the four required by law, five for casinos, and one each for the Washington Football Team and DC United. For the maximum of 14, the Lottery is counting the limit of 12 set by law plus one each for the Washington NFL team and MLS DC United. In this scenario, the five casinos are included in the limit of 12.
In another twist, there could be one additional license on the table in 2021 — for either Richmond Raceway or Martinsville Speedway. WynnBet partnered with both in the hopes that the NASCAR tracks would be considered pro sports venues, and be entitled to a sports betting license.
Conceptually, this should create a robust and competitive online marketplace for bettors, in addition to online sports wagering platforms connected to five future Virginia casinos.
Online & mobile sportsbooks in Virginia
With as many as 14 mobile permits to be issued, major sports betting brands see a golden opportunity to enter the Virginia mobile betting scene. However, as things stand, the price to play isn’t cheap, as there’s a six-figure application fee (more on this later) for a three-year license, plus a 15% tax on gross sports betting revenue. Following the three-year period, online sportsbooks will pay the Virginia Lottery should they wish to renew their license.
These costs haven’t slowed things down though, with a growing list of online sportsbooks already taking wagers in the state.
Accepting Bets Now in VA
FanDuel is DraftKings’ biggest competitor when it comes to DFS, and their battles continue as sports betting expands. Already situated in states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Indiana, FanDuel opened up shop on January 21, 2021 in Virginia.
DraftKings Sportsbook has quickly transitioned from DFS to sports betting, and it’s not doing so lightly. It has introduced innovative sports betting platforms in New Jersey, and a large DFS player base has helped DraftKings gain a strong market share in all of its active states. DraftKings became a public company on the NASDAQ in April 2020 in continuing its quest to conquer the U.S. sports betting industry. DraftKings took its first bets in Virginia on January 24, 2021.
BetMGM is a Roar Digital platform, a joint venture between MGM International and GVC Holdings. MGM has invested a ton of resources into their online sportsbook and casinos in order to compete with market leaders. BetMGM went live on January 27, 2021 in Virginia.
BetRivers joined in on the fun just a few days after we saw the first sportsbooks go live in late January 2021. BetRivers is live in several states and offers one of the best loyalty programs in the industry, a great first deposit bonus and and extremely responsive customer service department.
This betting behemoth is making big strides in the U.S. market, offering online wagering services in VA. Caesars has years of experience in the legal gambling world, and is bringing in tons of new customers with a great selection of sports and available bets. The platform went live in the state of VA on February 3, 2021 as William Hill but was rebranded as Caesars Sportsbook in August 2021.
WynnBET, the iGaming extension of the popular brick-and-mortar casino chain, officially opened for business in Virginia on March 11, 2021. It was the sixth online sportsbook to debut in the state.
WynnBET has engaged in an exclusive partnership with NASCAR, which gives the company inroads in VA through both the Richmond Raceway and Martinsville Speedway. In addition to online sports betting, WynnBET branded retail betting will soon be available at both locations.
Unibet online sportsbook was lucky number 7 to go live in the state of Virginia. A pivotal piece of the Kindred Group, Unibet is one of the world’s top online sportsbooks with a proven track record across Europe. Unibet operates in VA through a stand-alone mobile sports betting license. The company accepted its first Virginia bets on April 28, 2021.
We also expect these players, among others, to emerge in Virginia:
Land-based books and casinos
Casino legislation has been a topic of conversation among VA representatives for the better part of two years, and this bill finally brings things to fruition. Cities are already looking to capitalize on the new law.
- The Pamunkey Tribe has a deal in place with the city of Norfolk to build a casino, and in August 2020 purchased land in Richmond.
- The Hard Rock Casino has a deal in place to operate at a Bristol location. According to the Herald-Courier, the plan is build a 100,000 square foot casino and a 100,000 square foot contention center;
- According to Virginia Business, the city of Danville made a deal with Caesars Entertainment with plans to build conference center, live-entertainment venue, and a casino;
- Hampton city leaders want to be included in all state legislation moving forward;
- Rush Street Gaming, owner of Rivers Casinos, is set to open a casino in the Portsmouth area.
Considering Portsmouth’s partnership with Rush Street, it’s safe to say Virginians will have access to the company’s BetRivers sportsbook sooner or later, similar to those in physical casinos in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, along with mobile sites where permissible.
Washington NFL team owner Dan Snyder is a potential newcomer to the sports betting industry. The team — which is in the process of a name change — is currently headquartered in Ashburn, Va., but plays games at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The Landover lease ends in 2027 and Snyder has shopped the DMV area — Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia — in hopes of finagling a new stadium with the lure of sports betting inside to attract fans.
State lawmakers hope the provision allowing pro teams and sports venues access to mobile sports wagering licenses will entice Snyder to build in Virginia. Did we mention that said casinos and sports teams will be able to launch their mobile platforms before their retail locations are built? Enticing indeed.
Laws and regulations
The Virginia Lottery is slated to have sports betting guidelines in place by the middle of September 2020, and now operators have begun to launch, starting in January 2021. Here’s what we know now:
Fees and taxes
Though the initial bill that passed had a flat $250,000 fee, one of the governor’s amendments erased that requirement in favor of a $50,000 fee per “principal” in each organization. Principals include only those who have at least 5% stake in an organization. Lawmakers accepted the amendment. The tax rate is 15%.
“Official league data”
Virginia is the fourth state to controversially require the use of “official league data,” joining Michigan, Illinois, and Tennessee. This means that all licensed sportsbooks have to obtain data feeds from a sports league’s governing body in order to grade and settle in-play wagers.
Take your UVA Final Four bets elsewhere…
Unfortunately, betting on Virginia-based college teams isn’t allowed, nor are any prop bets on college athletics. Some other states including New Jersey have imposed similar restrictions with respect to wagering on in-state teams.
What’s going on in the neighborhood?
D.C. law, with the D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming as its regulatory body, allows for mobile sports betting with the Lottery and at professional sports arenas. The Lottery launched its GamBetDC platform to mixed reviews just after Memorial Day 2020, in the middle of COVID-19 restrictions. At the end of July, the retail sportsbook at Capital One Arena began taking bets via 10 kiosks and teller windows. The Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill location is the first in a professional sports facility anywhere in the U.S.
The sports licensing application fee in D.C. is $250,000, with a $250,000 renewal fee. According to some reports, the Washington NFL team is much more focused on working out a deal in either Maryland or Virginia than returning to D.C.
Voters in November approved legal sports betting, and now it will be up to the state legislature to develop a framework. Voters simply voted “yes” or “no” to legal digital and retail sports betting at casinos, racetracks, and professional sports venues, all regulated by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control. Maryland is already home to MGM National Harbor, Caesars Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, and Maryland Live! in Arundel Mills. In March, facing a shortened session as COVID-19 stay-at-home orders began to take effect, lawmakers passed a stripped down version of the referendum, meaning all fees, taxes, and other structure were removed from the referendum bill with the idea that lawmakers would make those issues a priority in 2021 should voters approve the measure.
Sports betting has been live at West Virginia casinos since 2018, and WV mobile betting followed in 2019. Now online casino gambling is on its way to the Mountaineer State. As far as sports betting is concerned, once Virginia mobile betting launches, West Virginia could lose customers who have been crossing the state line for action. However, some Virginia bettors may still make the occasional road trip in order to bet on their beloved alma maters.
FAQ about Virginia sports betting
Yes it is. Online sports betting officially began in Virginia on January 21, 2021. FanDuel Sportsbook was the first site to accept legal online wagers in the state.
There will be anywhere from 4-12 online sportsbooks, plus mobile platforms for five future Virginia casinos as well as pro sports teams with headquarters in Virginia.
You can bet on local professional teams but not on local college teams within the state of Virginia. You cannot place prop bets (including in-game bets) on college sports under any circumstances.
Convenient and safe deposit/withdrawal options are available, which is a sigh of relief for anyone who may have been using offshore sportsbooks operating illegally in the U.S. These methods include:
- PayPal – Connect your PayPal account in order to make instantaneous deposits.
- ACH/eCheck – Load funds directly from your connected bank account.
- Site-specific prepaid debit cards – Sportsbooks will likely offer branded pre-paid cards that double as ATM cards.
- Online banking – Log into your banking account through the portal.
- Skrill – another e-wallet like PayPal
- Visa/Mastercard – acceptance rates for credit/debit card transactions are slowly on the rise, but still low
- Cash at the casino cages – once constructed
- Paper check
Virginia sports betting journey
Virginia has always been for lovers, and now for gamblers.
Along with sports betting, Virginia will allow up to five casinos to be built, which is historic considering casinos — both commercial and tribal — have been absent throughout Virginia’s history. The arrival of casinos will come more than 30 years after Virginia voters brought the lottery to the Old Dominion in 1987.
Though casino gambling and sports betting will be new, Virginians are no strangers to betting on horse races.
Of course, the sports betting part would not have been possible without the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn PASPA in May 2018.
Virginia lawmakers were quick to react to the landmark decision, introducing the first bill to legalize and regulate sports betting as soon as November 2018. What followed was a back-and-forth between lawmakers and Gov. Northam, which they eventually sorted out. The Virginia Lottery is currently reviewing applications, and has already issued some. With minimal hiccups, mobile betting is now live as of January 2021.